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December 1962

Where Is Our Nosocomial Conscience?

Am J Dis Child. 1962;104(6):593-594. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1962.02080030593001

An extensive epidemic of diarrhea due to Escherichia coli O111:B4 (EEC) occurred during the winter of 1960-1961 in the metropolitan Chicago-Northwest Indiana region. In the July, 1962, issue of American Journal of Hygiene, Kessner, Shaughnessy, and seven other public health workers1 report the visible portion of the epidemic iceberg which involved over 1,300 children and 29 community hospitals over a period of 9 months. The over-all mortality rate was nearly 6%. Theirs is a horrid tale of a community whose doctors generally didn't believe in the importance of EEC. Theirs is a tale of the largest community outbreak of infantile diarrhea reported in the space age. Imagine an epidemic of infants with an age specific attack rate of 3,700 per 100,000 in a metropolitan area like South Chicago. The public used to panic at milder figures from polio.

This was a nosocomial epidemic (nosos—disease + komein—to take care